Future Man — Tramon Mark’s Incredible Buzzer Beater Brings an Entire Town Along, Shows UH’s Next Star is Already Ready for March
How Dickinson's Beloved Homegrown Hero Built Himself Into a Big Shot Maker — and Why Houston Refused to Let Him Get AwayBY Chris Baldwin // 03.08.21
Tramon Mark made a buzzer beater for the ages against Memphis in 2021 and happy March chaos ensued for UH . (@UHCougarMBK)
Tramon Mark got buried in a happy pile of joy after his buzzer beat brought the March magic to Houston early. (@UHCougarMBK)
Tramon Mark brought a moment of pure wonder to UH's basketball program. (@UHCougarMBK)
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson wrapped Tramon Mark up in a big hug. (@UHCougarMBK)
DeJon Jarreau teared up during UH's Senior Day ceremony. (Photo by Houston Athletics/Stephen Pinchback)
Brison Gresham, DeJon Jarreau and Justin Gorham won a lot of games together at the University of Houston. (Photo by Houston Athletics/Stephen Pinchback)
Brison Gresham has been an impact player at the University of Houston. (Photo by Houston Athletics/Stephen Pinchback)
Kelvin Sampson, DeJon Jarreau and UH athletic director Chris Pezman share a moment on Senior Day last March. (Photo by Houston Athletics/Stephen Pinchback)
Tramon Mark is one of Houston's most talented players. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Reggie Chaney is an inside force — and an example of the depth Houston builds under Kelvin Sampson. (Courtesy UH Athletics)
Kelvin Sampson and Kellen Sampson are key figures in one of college basketball's great program resurrections. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Tramon Mark is becoming a more confident shooter for Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
UH's Quentin Grimes is one of the top guards in America. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kelvin Sampson's UH team is a very together group. (Courtesy UH Athletics)
It won't be long before all eyes are on Tramon Mark at the University of Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston's regular starters delighted in the romp from the bench. (Courtesy UH Athletics)
University of Houston freshman guard Tramon Mark is one of the highest ranked recruits in the basketball program's history. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Fabian White Jr.'s return gives Houston another needed offensive weapon to play through. (Courtesy UH Athletics)
Quentin Grimes can be a knockdown shooter capable of scoring points in bunches. (Courtesy UH Athletics)
Some shots reach far beyond the 94 foot by 50 foot court they’re hit on. Some buckets reverberate. Almost send out shock waves. Tramon Mark hits one those shots, catching a Marcus Sasser bounce pass just inside the half court line, taking two long strides and leaning left to bank a 41-footer game winner in off the glass at the buzzer.
This is how you unleash a little early March chaos. University of Houston forward Justin Gorham, tracking the ball for a possible offensive rebound, calls out “That’s game!” even before Mark’s precise fling hits glass. Then, Gorham does what any twentysomething college basketball player should do in this situation. He absolutely loses his mind, wildly running the wrong way as everyone else chases Tramon Mark in the complete opposite direction to bury the 19-year-old freshman in a dog pile of utter happiness.
In his house in Dickinson, Texas, Jason Wilson’s cellphone immediately starts vibrating and ringing nonstop as soon as Mark hits the shot. Wilson coached Mark at Dickinson High School and in this town of 20,000 that’s 24 miles north of Galveston, that makes him part of this March moment, too.
“When he scored today, my phone blew up today just like if I had made that shot,” Wilson tells PaperCity.
Wilson has seen Tramon Mark hit shots like this before. OK, maybe not shots quite like this. This particular shot is one of a kind — a catch at half court, a quick turn and a dribble and a step to split two Memphis defenders and get a good look — at least as good as any look can be from 40-plus feet can be — for the win. It’s Houston 67, Memphis 64 at the buzzer in a game that’s much more big picture meaningful for Penny Hardaway’s NCAA Tournament desperate Tigers team than Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars.
For Houston, this is about a mad moment of pure joy. Which is sort of what college basketball should be about anyway. It’s about Mark sending DeJon Jarreau, Justin Gorham and Brison Gresham out on Senior Day at the Fertitta Center with a fairytale worthy buzzer beater they’ll never ever forget.
And it’s about the future. And not just when Tramon Mark, one of the highest ranked recruits in UH basketball history, takes more of a leading role in the coming seasons. For this March too. Mark is already one of an elite Houston team’s most talented players — and if this shot unlocks more of those uber skills — the Cougars’ push for Final Four will become even more realistic than it already is.
“Getting into the (NCAA) Tournament isn’t the goal anymore,” Gorham says. “When we say things when we break the huddle, we’ll say National Championship. During preseason workouts. That’s what we’re looking forward to — national championship, Final Four and those things.
“We just don’t want to lose.”
“I had confidence that he had the best chance to make it of anybody on our team. Because I’ve watched him in practice enough.” — UH coach Kelvin Sampson on Tramon Mark taking the last shot.
Tramon Mark has a way of grabbing win-or-loss moments that predates his time at the University of Houston. “He has hit plenty of game winners over the four year span (at Dickinson),” Wilson says. The coach remembers a last second play in Mark’s junior year when the Gators threw a long pass down to Mark at the opposite free throw line and he turned to bury the game winning jumper. Then, there is the time Mark got fouled on a drive to the hoop at the buzzer and hit both free throws to beat Allen High. And the 19 straight free throws Mark made as a senior to secure a groundbreaking regional finals win that sent Dickinson to the state semifinals before COVID canceled everything.
Or the time, Mark scored 32 points in a high school rivalry game as a ninth grader playing on a varsity team packed with nine seniors. “We went in a hostile environment in Clear Lake and he just took over,” Wilson says. “And I just knew that he was special. That he was going to be special for the next four years for us.”
Yes, Tramon Mark knows a little something about being clutch — and arriving on a scene early.
A Mark in March
On a Top 10 in the nation UH team where the scoring of Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser, the energy and playmaking of DeJon Jarreau, and the rebounding and combativeness of Justin Gorham are constants, Tramon Mark can be the ultimate March X-Factor. In Houston’s most impressive win of the season — taking out Texas Tech in a hostile environment in Fort Worth — Mark played like the best player on the floor for a five minute stretch in the first half that help set up everything to come.
“Shout out to Tramon for a big shot,” Jarreau says, still almost giggling a good half hour after the Memphis magic. “I saw it the whole way. I was standing right next to him. He just grabbed it and shot it with confidence. How do you do that? You make an unorthodox shot like that. It was a one-handed leaner three from half court.
“And he hit it, man.”
Mark hit it — and it seemingly sent an entire separate town into celebration, too.
“Dickinson, man — it’s a unique place,” Wilson tells me. “It’s a small town, city, however you want to categorize it. One thing, they’re very passionate about sports here. . . Very passionate about our former and present Gators. Tramon being able to do this for the city and community. . . it just sends an electric energy throughout the community.”
This high school coach is almost a little embarrassed by the fuss he gets locally just for having coached Tramon Mark. “Everybody is always you know, coming up to me and congratulating me for Tramon’s success,” Wilson says. “It seems a little awkward and weird. I’m not making and shooting the baskets. . .”
Wilson laughs. He credits UH’s recruiting full court press — particularly the relentless efforts of assistant coach Alvin Brooks — with Mark still being close enough to Dickinson that his big shots ring home. Mark was recruited by a host of Power 5 schools and ESPN beloved nationally publicized programs around the country, but UH’s early and never-ending focus on him resonated more.
“Coach Alvin Brooks,” Wilson says. “Him just living in the Dickinson gym. Just living there. Every time you look up, he was there. His relationship with me, he had me sold — just how much he invested in Tramon. And just being there every time the doors were open at Dickinson High School.”
Brooks and Sampson connected just as much with Mark’s basketball mad family. Tramon Mark’s dad, mom, uncle and older brother all played high school basketball at a relatively high level. Of course, Tramon’s handle, his 6-foot-6 height, his ability to twist his still skinny frame into openings and still get a solid look while off balance, sets him apart.
Kelvin Sampson finds himself designing a play that will put the ball in the freshman’s large hands in a timeout with 1.7 seconds left. Memphis’ Boogie Ellis had just hit a three off a rebound scramble to tie the game at 64. There did not seem to be enough time for anything but a prayer.
“To be honest, I was bracing for overtime,” Gorham admits.
Mark changes that in one bold instance. “I had confidence that he had the best chance to make it of anybody on our team,” Sampson says. “Because I’ve watched him in practice enough. The wide open shot he had in the corner (a missed 3 with 75 seconds left), obviously was a wide open shot. Maybe, he’s not ready to make that shot.
“But he was fearless on the last one.”
UH’s Future Man just may be here early.
Tramon Mark has never been very afraid of the moment. On this wild Sunday at the Fertitta Center, he makes a day that starts with emotional tears for Jarreau, the first person in his family to graduate from college, in the pregame Senior Day ceremony end with pure joy.
“I don’t think I have another memory that’s close to that,” Jarreau says. “. . . That’s the best moment since I’ve been at UH.”
This win should help strengthen 21-3 Houston’s beyond solid case for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but Sampson’s team still might have to win next week’s American Athletic Conference Tournament in Fort Worth to actually get that seed from the always fickle selection committee. And the difference between being a No. 2 and a No. 3 seed in the big dance does not mean nearly as much as which teams are in your section of the bracket.
In contrast, Memphis (15-7) may find itself outside of the NCAA bubble because of Mark’s magic — as basketball unjust as that would be.
“When he scored today, my phone blew up today just like if I had made that shot.” — Tramon Mark’s high school coach Jason Wilson.
Hardaway’s Tigers are the much more desperate team and they play like it for large parts of the game. The Cougars have more trouble scoring against the Tigers’ full court pressure than they probably should and shoot 36.7 percent from the field. It is not close to one of Houston’s better games this season.
Yet, there Sampson’s guys are, winning it at the buzzer, ripping out a beyond determined opponent’s heart.
“Don’t ever give up on your Coogs,” Sampson tells the few thousand lucky enough to be in the Fertitta Center in an on-court postgame Senior Day moment.
Those Coogs have another win. And maybe even the beginnings of a new star. Just in time for the real madness. You can be sure almost all of Dickinson will be watching.
“I’m glued to the TV,” Wilson says. “I’m always glued to the TV with him because I always know Tramon is going to do something.
“Do something special.”
Just watch him let it fly.